Living With Kids: Shira Gill

January 13, 2015

By Gabrielle. Photos by Vivian Johnson.

I promise I’ve got some wonderful homes sitting in chillier locales in the queue, but I’m giving you another California home and sunny interview to warm us all up today. Meet Shira Gill, a sweet mom and wife who turned her 25 house moves into a thriving and much-needed business that edits pretty much an entire life.

Are you hanging on tightly to too much? Do you dread opening your closet in the mornings, not to mention – shudder – your child’s over-crammed wardrobe? Do your afternoons careen into crazy town no matter how well you think you’ve prepared for the chaos? Call Shira. I bet she’s either experienced or seen and solved much worse!

Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here!

A: Hi there! My husband, Jordan, and I both grew up in the SF Bay area a mere ten minutes from each other. Although we had several friends in common, we never met. We met working at Camp Tawonga, a children’s environmental education summer camp near Yosemite, when we were 20 years old. It took several years for him to convince me to date him, probably because I was balancing a busy schedule of dating the wrong people and traveling as much as possible. He works as the director of development for a non-profit in San Francisco, and I run my own business helping busy families streamline their homes and simplify their lives.

I’m so relieved I came to my senses and married him because it was the best decision I ever made. Jordan and I are opposites in many ways, but truly compatible and complimentary. I am creative, energetic, and impatient, while Jordan is grounded, practical, and calm. I help to motivate him when he is feeling a little bit lazy, and he is one of the only people that can calm me down when my mind gets racing. I often get restless and crave adventure and, luckily for me, he is always happy to be along for the ride…

Gorgeous home, gorgeous words…just ahead.

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Olive Us: Cracks

January 12, 2015

By Gabrielle.

I guarantee you will LOVE this month’s new Olive Us episode. It’s sure to capture your child’s imagination — and your imagination too! After you watch it, I hope you and your kids will picture the world a little differently next to time you take a walk together through your neighborhood — or even across a parking lot!

Olive Us - Cracks - Behind the Scenes

We first showcased this episode in the Olive Us newsletter last week and it’s getting shared like crazy. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. Enjoy!

P.S. — Fun fact, since Olive Us launched, we’ve made 46 episodes total. You can find them all here. Subscribe to the newsletter to be the first to see upcoming episodes!

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Haiti Partners

January 12, 2015

Haiti Partner School 4

By Gabrielle. Images by Haiti Partners.

Did you know today marks five years since the devastating earthquake in Haiti? You can go here and scroll down to refresh your memory of what happened that day. So many people lost their lives, that we’ll never know the true number.

Ben Blair and Ralph are arriving in Haiti as I type, and I am looking forward to hearing from them and getting a report. What are they doing there, you ask? Great question. I’m excited to tell you.

Haiti Partner School 1

We have a good friend named Jesse Engle, who I met years ago at the very first BlogHer I attended. Jesse and his family live here in the Bay Area and he works in the tech and startup sector. Jesse’s brother John lives in Haiti and started Haiti Partners, an organization that is dedicated to helping Haitians help Haiti through education. You can read about their approach here, and their work here. Jesse is also very involved with Haiti Partners, and we’ve been getting involved with the organization through him.

Haiti Partners School 3

Broadband internet has recently come to Haiti, and Haiti Partners is figuring out how to make the most of it. One of the things better internet makes available is video chat. So one of the big ideas Haiti Partners is considering is to create a community of English speakers who can have conversations, via online video chats, with Haitians who are trying to learn English.

The new program is going launching this week, and that’s why Ben & Ralph are there. First, to help with the launch in general. Second, because Ben Blair’s education and professional experience is heavy on language learning techniques and he’s very excited about the possibilities of this program. And third, because Haiti Partners would love to have a video made so they can show people what the program is about, and Ralph is going to capture the footage and create the video. French is one of Haiti’s national languages, so Ralph’s French is going to help as well.

Haiti Partners School 2

We’re so impressed with Haiti Partners — it’s a really top notch team doing important work. And as a family, we’re over the moon that we can be involved and use our skills to help in even a small way. I’m sure many of you would love to get involved as well — if you have an internet connection and a computer, you could be a video chat volunteer! The program is so brand new and experimental, that they’re not ready to sign up volunteers yet, but as soon as they are, I will let you know. I think it would be a really cool thing to get your kids involved in, and could open their eyes to how big (and small!) the world is.

Tell me, Friends, have you ever been to Haiti? Or maybe followed updates about the country since the earthquake? As you’re picturing it, imagine warm, warm warm — the weather is supposed to be 90 degrees there this week! If you’re curious to know more about the status of Haiti right now, the links and videos here and here are informative and helpful. Is there a cause or organization or program you or your kids is working with this year? I’d love to hear!

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A Few Things

January 9, 2015

Blair Family Dinner Prep

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Is your new year getting off to a good start? Any good stuff going on this weekend? Today is Oscar’s birthday so we’ve got celebration plans! We started the day with breakfast in bed, we’ll have cake and open presents tonight, and tomorrow we’re picking up the cousins for a day trip to the Monterrey Aquarium. Oscar could not be more excited if he tried.

We’ll also be packing up Ben & Ralph for their big trip to Haiti — they leave Sunday, and I have my next hair bleaching appointment tomorrow morning. Should be a big full weekend at the Blair house. But before I sign off to get Oscar’s birthday stuff prepped, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Oh so heartsick about France. I’m watching the news and following the #charliehebdo hashtag on Instagram, and talking with the kids about freedom of expression. I’m sure you are too.

- This morning, I was feeling particularly tenderhearted about the gloomy news, and I saw this sweet and funny little photo and was surprised to find it comforted me a bit. I suppose, I’ll take any bit of sweetness I can get!

- On a more light-hearted note this article made me laugh: Today I learned something about my boyfriend that no girl should ever have to discover.

New Year’s Resolutions by Myer’s-Briggs personality type. Is your description accurate?

- Skip the mall ear piercing booth and take your kids to the tattoo parlor instead. Thanks, Wendy.

- Hah! A note to post when you leave on vacation.

Good dads will change the world.

- Why women need more sleep than menThanks, Sarah.

- Half the country is freezing right now, but these guys have figured out how to make the most of a polar vortex. Thanks, Beccah.

- If you’ve followed the media outrage over Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s preference to be called John, this call for acceptance might hit home. Thanks, Mary Ann.

- An interesting idea: Why we need to change how we use the word “blessed.” Thanks, Erin.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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By Gabrielle. Pendant found via Forget Me Not on Etsy.

Oh, goodness. This story left me with such an ache in my heart. Although the writer requested anonymity, I still want to shower her with so much support and hope that it empowers her to truly believe that she is a mom. The bravest, most courageous, kindest mom I could imagine.

And so, wherever you are, K., know that we are with you. A group deep and diverse, from all walks of life, who want nothing more than to hold your hand and give you a squeeze. I hope you find peace.

You will be moved by her kind heart…

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2015: Thoughts & Goals

January 7, 2015

Sonoma Coast

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Ready for a rambling post? Things I am feeling and thinking today:

- I love my life! I can’t believe how lucky I am. This marriage, these kids, this work, this house — so much joy to be found in this life I’m living. I’m feeling a huge dose of gratitude at the moment, and I’ve been feeling it ever since we’ve had our family back together again. I’ve got this sort of non-stop awareness going on of how precious this time in my life is. Feeling good!

- Related, holy moly I’m excited for 2015! Our family calendar is filling up with really good stuff. And so is my editorial calendar. I have lots of ambitious goals, possibly overly ambitious. But I don’t mind. It gives me something to shoot for.

- As I went through my inbox this morning, it struck me how amazing it is to be the receiver of stories. My inbox holds treasures. Treasures written by YOU. I read your emails filled with stories of encouragement and sadness and frustration and discovery and questions and excitement and laughter, and I’m moved at the strength and compassion of human beings. And I want MORE! One of my 2015 goals is to make some video interviews of the amazing women in this community.

I’m picturing the experiences shared in the house tours and birth stories, but in person, from the mouth of the storyteller. I’ve had the chance to interview some truly outstanding people in my life, and I find it so satisfying. I really love talking to people! My vision for these interview videos is only partly formed, so I look forward to seeing what comes to fruition.

- Speaking of video, I also like the idea of more casual vlogging interspersed with the more produced videos (read: Olive Us) that we make. Like one of my discussion blog posts, but in video form. Speaking conversationally in front of camera would be very new to me, and perhaps it won’t be a good fit, but I’ve been thinking about this long enough that at this point, I’m like, why not give it a try? So I’m definitely working on video in 2015.

- As I was making goals, I also thought a lot about contributors for this site. You may remember that one of my first posts in 2014 announced that I was no longer going to have contributors on Design Mom, and that decision was well received. The conversations over the last year have been terrific and I loved feeling like the blog was my own again!

But I can’t help feeling like I’m missing some big potential for this website by remaining the sole author. The name of the site, Design Mom, is bigger than me. It’s a big enough idea that I don’t think it should belong to only one voice. Over the years, I’ve used this platform to build the careers of talented women, and offer opportunities to all sorts of people. And I’ve missed that this past year. So I’m thinking and thinking and trying to figure out a solution that would allow more voices here, without alienating the readers who come here to hear from me specifically. I don’t have this figured out at all. But it’s on my mind for 2015. Isn’t there a way? I think yes.

- Related, I’m committing to redesign the site this year. It’s time for a refresh. I would love to have a new site design that launches at the same time my book comes out. It’s a goal I’m shooting for.

- We did a ton in The Treehouse in 2014. There was a front porch makeover including a new front door. We finished the living room. We created a colorful reading loft with DIY crate shelves. The boys’ room was totally redone — we even had to move a wall. A fresh canvas was created in the girls’ room and I’m almost done with the details in there. In the yard, we made the swing installation and a Mother’s Day hideaway. We created a music nook in the family room, and added new flooring in the office and family room. But I’ve only shared finished photos of about half of what we’ve done. So this year, I want to post some room tours. I’m thinking of the girls bedroom (that will happen this month!), the family room, and the home office. I’m working on a little bathroom refresh to share next week as well.

- Beyond sharing these, I’d love to “finish” this house. I laugh as I type this, because I know our home as an ever changing work-in-progress, so I’m not sure what I even mean by “finished”. But probably I mean a few big projects — the things I sort of apologize for when I showing friends the house. The master bedroom and bath needs some big work. The yard needs a jump start. And I would love to finish some overall details like interior door knobs. That would leave the kitchen as the last big remodel, and it’s working well enough as is, that I think it can wait until 2016. Though who knows. Maybe I’ll have a big burst of remodeling energy and get it all done this year!

- We love to travel and did a bunch in 2014. We did some nearby trips like Big Sur and Sequoia National Park. There were a couple of trips to L.A., and work trips to D.C., New York, and Salt Lake City. We took a three week epic road trip in the summer. Olive went to France with her school. And later, Ralph and Olive went to France as exchange students! Lastly, Ben Blair and I took a fantastic trip to Sweden as well. I’m definitely excited for more travel in 2015! We are still trying to figure out our travel calendar, but we re-watched Walter Mitty on Christmas Day, and it always gets me looking up plane tickets and craving an adventure. Let’s pack our bags!

- Happily, we already have some amazing trips happening this very month. On Sunday, Ralph and Ben Blair are headed to Haiti to help Haiti Partners launch their English-teaching program. We’re hugely excited about this! And I’m working up a separate post with more details.

- And next week, Maude and I will travel to Washington D.C.. Maude is one of 15 fifteen-year-olds to come to D.C. on the January 15th, 2015 for the ACTION/2015 event. Such an honor to be invited! I’ll write about more about this in a separate post as well.

- There will also be a trip to Salt Lake City for Alt Summit this month (of course!). Ralph, Maude & Olive will be traveling with me. Such a treat to have kids that are old enough to help out at the conference.

- One of the biggest events for me in 2015 is that my book will be published. What a project his has been! In fact, today is a big book day for me. I receive the “third pass” today and will be sending in any changes/edits by tomorrow. So the book is on my mind like crazy. I’m also shaking my head at myself because somehow my final book deadlines and my Alt Summit deadlines have ended up happening at the same time. Which makes this month quite ridiculous. Hah!

My publisher is discussing a book tour with me and I’m so excited! I will for sure be sharing updates when I know more.

- This goal is more personal, but I want to put my financial life in order in 2015. There have been lots of years where I felt organized and on top of things on the financial front, but in 2013 and 2014 I kept ignoring my basic budgeting tasks and book keeping tasks and now things are messier than they should be. So it’s time to get serious about tidying up.

I get lots of questions about this sort of thing — readers wanting to have discussions about financial organization and budgeting strategies. So perhaps I can create some helpful content as I put things in order.

- This last goal scares me the most, because I’m unsure how to accomplish it, but if I share it publicly, maybe it will be the spark I need to figure it out. The goal: I want to get the French Cottage livable. And that’s no small thing. There is currently no bathroom or kitchen! Can you see why I’m intimidated? We’ll see what I can figure out.

With all this looking forward, I’m also thinking fondly about 2014. It was a good, big year for us. As I mentioned above, we completed lots of house renovations. We hosted 3 exchange students, and sent two of our kids off as exchange students. We traveled. We worked. We went to school. We made ourselves at home in Oakland.

I talked about feeling gratitude at the beginning of this post, and it’s true — I have been bursting with gratitude lately. And I have to say, a major chunk of that gratitude is directed toward you, and to this community as a whole. This is a remarkable group of people! The conversations that happen here are good and important. I can’t thank you enough for joining in the way you do. Thank you.

Here’s to another great year!

Now it’s your turn. (And if you made through all of those ramblings, you deserve a gold sticker!) I’d love to hear what’s on your mind today. Any projects you are working on this year? What are you most looking forward to? What are you most intimidated by? And is there anything in particular you’d like to see happen on Design Mom this year? I hope you chime in!

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By Gabrielle.

There’s so much more to Janette than just a pretty home. Sure, she’s Head of Expansion for Homepolish in San Francisco and so we expect her to have a lovely aesthetic. But there’s a reason I’ve saved her to share with you until the first week in January and the month of fresh starts, especially for those of you in the midst of a change that threatens to shake up your life as you know it. Her advice from the other side of her own struggle is pretty wonderful.

So let’s get it started once again, shall we? Welcome, Janette!

Q: Tell us all about the ones who make this house a home.

A: Viv loves singing, coloring with Crayola Pip-Squeaks, dancing, pink, Frozen, leotards, kitties, and definitely not pants or egg salad. She was born in San Francisco (her middle name is Sunshine!), goes to HolaKids Spanish immersion preschool, and wants to be a sister.

I love textiles, fog on the San Francisco landscape, Big Sur, asymmetry, playing guitar, good friends, and heartfelt conversation. I grew up on a wheat farm in the middle of Kansas, studied at the University of Kansas, and now work with the interior design startup Homepolish as Head of SF Expansion. In any extra time I can find, I keep up Lovemade, an events series for families, and Sun + Dotter, a styling service.

More wisdom and wonderful views, just ahead!

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Happy New Year!

January 2, 2015

Blairs on Ice

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. I have been treasuring all the family time we’ve been soaking up over this holiday break. It feels like such a gift. Even the sickness feels like a gift because it kept our schedule low-key. I look ahead, and I don’t know if and when we’ll ever get a concentrated family time quite like this again, so I’m eating it up and trying to appreciate every minute of it.

I’d originally scheduled today as a regular work day. I’d even made my next hair bleaching appointment for today. But, I ended up pushing things back — I find I’m trying to stretch out this family break as long as I can. I moved the hair appointment till next week and I’ve blocked out a chunk of time for email, but then I’m going back to family time till Monday.

Yesterday, we made New Year’s Resolutions and many of mine related to this website. I have so many thoughts and ideas about what this blog should be! I’m excited to write up a post about my goals on Monday and get your feedback.

How are you doing? Are you back to a regular schedule today? Did you do anything fun for New Year’s Day? We kept it very simple. We put away our holiday decorations, popped a huge batch of kettle corn, and watched The Hudsucker Proxy. Such a good New Year’s movie! How about you?

P.S. — I’m glad I’m pushing back the hair appointment. I feel like I’m still enjoying this reddish blonde color, and I’m hoping to fit in a photo shoot before I change it. I want to have a good record of it. : )

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New Year New You

December 30, 2014

journal

This post is brought to you by Invisalign. Boost your self-confidence in 2015 with an improved smile — take the Smile Assessment to see what Invisalign can do for you!

—–

By Gabrielle. Image by Kristen Loken for Design Mom.

The end of the year is almost here! Have you started thinking about New Year’s Resolutions yet? I definitely have. But, I’m in the loves-to-make-resolutions camp, so it’s something I enjoy and look forward to working on. That said, I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself to keep my resolutions. For me, it’s about coming up with a list of goals that helps me focus on the upcoming year and what I hope to accomplish. Even if the goals change right away, I find it’s nice to have a starting point.

I’ve mentioned it before, but we also help our kids make resolutions — even when they’re little! To get our kids thinking about the coming year, we offer prompter questions:

This year, I want to learn: __________
I want to read: __________
I want to make: __________
I want to visit: __________
I want to change: __________
(The change prompt is supposed to help you think of something like an unhealthy habit you’d like to get rid of.)
I want to be better at: __________
Most of all I want: __________

And we keep a specific family journal (you can see it in the photo above) where we record the answers. The journal is a treasure! It’s a wonderful resource where the kids can see how much they’re growing and changing. These days, the older kids prefer to keep their resolutions in their own personal journals, but they still love to read the resolutions from their early years.

As for me, I’m counting “straightening my teeth” as one of my goals because my Invisalign treatment will wrap up this summer. I can already see my teeth improving — not just getting straighter, my overbite is being corrected too and it surprises me how happy it makes me. I didn’t think of myself as particularly unhappy with my teeth before I started treatment, just sort of generally irritated. So I can’t believe how much I enjoy seeing them improve.

Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking about some physical self-improvement in 2015. In fact, according to this survey, in 2014, 61 percent of women said they let their personal needs take a backseat to other priorities, and only 26 percent of women made time to do things to make them feel good about themselves. Yikes! Related, 47 percent of women said that their confidence is tied to how they feel about their physical appearance, but only 29 percent of women made physical appearance a priority. So no surprise that women are ready for a change in 2015.

2015 Goals

All those stats make me want to shout from the rooftops: Let’s be kind to ourselves in 2015! Let’s remind ourselves it’s okay to schedule some “me time”!

Where do you fall on this topic? Do you feel like you didn’t make enough personal time for yourself in 2014? If yes, do you think you’ll be better in 2015? And are you a goal-lover like I am? Is there a resolution or goal you’re making for 2015 that you don’t mind sharing? Do you make yearly goals with your kids? I can’t wait to read your thoughts!

P.S. — Famous resolutions.

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By Gabrielle. Entry from Mary Heffernan’s old home. (Don’t worry! I’m begging for a new tour of her ranch house very soon!)

It’s been another year of wonderful home tours and words that made our Tuesdays a little more thoughtful. What a lovely thing it is to be able to peek in on how others are living with their families. I’m so grateful to all of my guides for their bravery and openness, and also to my sweet readers for welcoming them in each week with a supportive comment or even a “What color are your walls?”

Join me in a little walk down memory lane, will you, please?

Oh, it’s been a very pretty year. Come look!

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Russian River

December 29, 2014

Russian River

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I’m writing today from a little rental house on the banks of Russian River — about 2 hours north of Oakland. We’re here to enjoy some concentrated family time without the distractions of home. I think this is the most laid back trip we’ve ever taken — consisting entirely of board games, puzzles, movie marathons, baking, napping and reading. We originally planned to do some hiking and exploring, but 6 out of 8 of us are under the weather (thankfully nothing worrisome), so hanging out in pjs feels just right. We haven’t really left the house!

It’s been a nice little internet break for me as well. I took several days away from my phone and laptop, and am just checking in lightly this week. Feels good!

The last week of the year always seems like such a limbo week to me — like I couldn’t keep to a standard schedule if I tried. Are you the same? What’s this week like at your house? Are you back at work? Hanging out with your kids on their school break? Have you put holiday decorations away? Are you traveling this week? I’d love to hear!

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Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2014

striped stocking

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. I’m signing off for a few days to celebrate Christmas with my family. Ralph & Olive are home from France and we’re feeling extra lucky to be together this year. Here’s what I’ve been humming since I woke up this morning:

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Such lovely lyrics. Wishing you Peace on Earth and A Merry Christmas too!

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — I’ll be posting next week, but sort of “blogging lite”. See you then if you’re around!

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By Gabrielle.

You may recognize Casey’s name from the film American Blogger. Her husband, Christopher, traveled over 15,000 miles to document the stories of those who keep blogs and share themselves with the rest of us. Have you seen it? I’ve heard it’s fascinating!

The Wiegands recently moved into a new-to-them home, and invited us in to see their holiday decorations. It’s all very sweet and mindful – much like Casey herself! – and such a relaxed way to end our tours for the year.

Welcome, Casey!

Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here!

A: My name is Casey Wiegand, wife to Chris Wiegand, and mama to three: Aiden, Ainsleigh, and Apple.

Do not show Aiden’s room to your kids, unless you want a zoo!

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Blonde, Stage One

December 22, 2014

Design Mom Blonde

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness! It’s 9:30 at night and I’m finally sitting down to post on my blog. Olive & Ralph got home yesterday and as you can imagine, all my attention has been completely family-focused. But I thought I’d stop in for a quick post to update you on my hair change. I have a completely new hair color!!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have watched as I live-grammed my hair change last Friday (I used the hashtag #designmomblonde). I hadn’t originally thought to do this, but I shared the first image, and then decided to keep on sharing! That was more selfies than I typically take in a year, all shared in one day. Hah!

My lovely friend Rubi was coming to town and helped set up the whole thing. Rubi is friends with the owner of Barrow Salon in San Francisco, and she helped me arrange the color, and then she cut my hair when the color was finished. The colorist was Barb and she did a fabulous job. She knows my original intention was to go for an ashy white, and she is considering this phase one. I have to say, until I went in for my consultation, I had no idea it would be a multi-step process. Bleaching is quite new to me! Apparently it can go faster, but doing it slowly gives your hair the greatest chance for remaining healthy and viable. So slowly we go.

I’m getting lots of questions about the upkeep and experience so I thought I’d answer them here.

Is my hair fried?
Friday was very successful — after the color was done, Rubi cut my hair (I had like 3 inches of ratty ends chopped off. Hooray!) and gave me a blowout. And she said it didn’t even feel like it had been colored. Which was totally unexpected. From the beginning, Barb warned me we might have to cut off most of my hair. So I was prepared for a short bob, or even a pixie cut. But my hair responded well to the bleaching, and Barb used a product called Olaplex that’s supposed to be really good at preventing damage — and apparently it worked! Which is awesome news. And it means I get to try long blonde hair — at least for awhile.

I’m scheduled for the next bleaching day on January 2nd. And Barb is expecting to be able to get me to platinum at that point. We may need to do a major cut at that point too — we’ll assess hair damage after the next bleaching. But so far, so good.

One thing: it’s been crazy rainy and humid here, so as usual my hair is frizzing up, and I can’t tell how much is normal wet-weather frizz and how much is damage. : )

Did it change the curl?
Good question. And I don’t have the answer. I haven’t washed and styled it myself yet. But I’ll let you know in a future update.

If it did damage the curl, will I have to wear it straight?
Possibly. But that’s kind of been the thing since I moved to California. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I haven’t loved my curls here (not sure if it’s the weather or my hair length or what), so I’ve completely changed my hair upkeep. I get my hair washed and styled at a drybar weekly and then let the styling last a week. This generally works beautifully for me. (I use a hair powder between stylings as needed.) Yes, it’s more expensive, but outside of powder, I no longer need to buy hair products (no special curly girl shampoos!, no gels!), and my morning routine is way faster — depending on the length and style, curly hair can be a beast to upkeep.

Regardless of the color, while my hair is long, I plan to continue the weekly drybar visits. So I’m not worried about the curl changing.

Will it take me eight hours every time I need to deal with my roots?
That’s the best news of all. The first session of bleach (more detail here) was applied to everything but my roots. And it stayed on for a long time. My stylist described it as trying to remove sharpie from a canvas. But the second bleach session was applied to my 3 inch natural roots and they went platinum really fast! In fact they went so light, so fast, it took two toner sessions to get them to match better with the rest of my hair.

So if I make it to the white-hair goal, getting my roots done will be a cinch! Easier and faster than dyeing my color-resistant greys dark.

Why blonde? Why don’t you like being a brunette?
Oh my. I love being a brunette. I’ve loved being a brunette for 4o years. If I didn’t like it, I would have changed my hair color long ago. This experiment isn’t about being blonde, it’s about trying something very different, and white blonde was about as different as I could go. Also, once it’s white blonde, I can try any color more easily.

What is it like having a new hair color all of a sudden?
It’s only been a few days, but so far, this has been my experience: First, as everyone who has ever drastically colored their hair predicted, it’s such a trip to catch my reflection in a window or a mirror! Second, I knew this was a temporary color, a step to another place, and didn’t expect to really like it. But I do! It’s a lovely warm honey color. And I totally match Ben’s beard now. : ) Third, when it’s down, sometimes the new color is overwhelming to me — I still have long hair so it’s a lot of new color!

But when I pull it up in a top knot I adore it. It’s just the right amount of change. I know I’ll get used to how it looks down, but for now, I’m glad I have the easy updo as an option.

I’d love to hear about your own hair color experiences, or color changes you’ve considered. Feel free to chime in!

P.S. — I have a couple of fun posts scheduled for tomorrow too. See you then!

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A Few Things

December 19, 2014

hot cocoa bar mugs

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I know we are right in the thick of holiday time and I wonder how everyone is holding up. Will you be lighting a Hanukkah candle tonight? Do you have your Christmas Tree decorated? Are you feeling festive? Or are you feeling overwhelmed by your task list? Any holiday can be an emotional minefield, but I feel like the December holidays are the trickiest, because it can be emotional + cold + dark.

For those of you who are feeling discouraged this week, I hope you’ll give yourself a break. I hope you’ll surround yourself by warmth and brightness — light some candles or plug in some twinkle lights. I hope you’ll eat something that feels like comfort food. And I hope that if this December isn’t your best, then you’ll let it go and remember you get a fresh start for 2015.

As for me, I’m feeling the happy sort of emotional, because all I can think about is that Ralph & Olive get home on Sunday!!!!! We’re all so excited we can hardly stand it.

I’m leaving my laptop early today, because I’m headed for a hair appointment (!), but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Give help or find help here.

- 15 amazing photographs from the Sony World Photography Awards. That monkey! Thanks, Becca.

- My brother’s super cool project, Metagramme, was covered on Wired this week.

- “Our children are facing it everyday, so when are we going to?” A heart-stopping video on lockdowns at our elementary schools two years after Newtown. Thanks, Kate.

- Hah! How to be Ultra Spiritual.

- Striking visual illustration of how much public space we have given to cars.

- Oh man. “Internet porn is an experiment in dehumanization.”

- The tiny human twig in the tree of life.

- This “Speechless” series of PSAs was so powerful to me. I watched every single one.

- What if your professor asked you to forgive him for having to give you final grades? An inspiring read about education today. Thanks, Kelley.

- Made me smile.

I hope you have a particularly wonderful weekend — I hope that like me, you get to hug the people you love! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses.
Gabrielle

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DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

Okay you guys. This is it! The final Design Mom giveaway of 2014. And it’s a good one. It’s sponsored by Cute Tape, and they’re offering a $100 store credit. Hooray!

Washi from Cute Tape - Hundreds of styles, patterns and colors.

Cute Tape offers a vast selection of washi tape — Japanese washi, and other kinds too. And you are welcome to use your prize to buy every color of washi tape under the sun. But Cute Tape also offers fantastic party supplies and craft supplies!

studiocalico-number-woodveneer nutcandycups

If I won, I would be tempted by the favor bags, and pillow boxes, plus hangtags and baker’s twine, and definitely rubber stamps and nut cups. I LOVE having my supply cupboards prepped with these sorts of things. They make it possible to turn any old day into a festive celebration. Plus, they are the trick to hosting last-minute parties, and giving last-minute gifts, that don’t feel last-minute.

I would also fill my shopping cart with washi tape!

modernfestive-cupcakelinersmini2 carnival-tickets-blank

Feel free to connect with Cute Tape on FacebookInstagram or Pinterest to be the first to know about new products and find about about discounts and sales.

Visit Cute Tape and leave a comment below to enter. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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bobbi brown smokey nudes palette

By Gabrielle. Eyeshadow palette by Bobbi Brown.

When I mentioned I had an appointment to go blonde tomorrow, there were a few comments that talked about certain hair colors not fitting the coloring of certain people. Those comments totally put me on the path down memory lane! When I was in middle school and high school, I think I went to a dozen different parties where a make-up specialist or fashion stylist would determine whether we were a winter, a spring, a summer or a fall. Then, once we knew what season we were, we would then be told what colors we could wear, and which we should avoid. I usually ended up as a winter, and I remember that basically no season seemed to be allowed to wear yellow. Hah!

Did any one else do this? I assume it was happening across the country, but maybe it was just in my home town. (My town was very Mormon and very white, so many this was a Mormon thing? Or a white people thing?)

I haven’t thought about what “season” I am for maybe 15 years or more. And the realization made me wonder: how many of us avoid wearing certain colors because we were told at some point they didn’t look good on us?

That seems like such a silly thing to me now! I would say the cut and fit of clothing can make a much bigger difference in how we look in certain pieces than the color. And I would also say that colors come and go with trends, and whatever color is trendy magically seems to look good on the general populace. Over the years, I think I’ve worn every kind of color. If I decide I don’t like how I look in one item or another, it’s more likely to be because I don’t like the style, not because I think the color “doesn’t work for me”.

Beyond clothing, I would say makeup trends have completely changed as well. I remember at around age 13, being told that only blue-eyed people could wear blue eyeshadow successfully. But these days, I can’t imagine anyone giving that sort of restrictive beauty advice! I feel like over the last decade, I’ve seen every color of eyeshadow worn gorgeously on every color of person. And there are lots of articles like this one that share makeup colors that look good on all skin tones. Which of course, makes me conclude all the color advice from my youth was totally bizarre, or, that we’ve redefined what we think is beautiful.

The “coloring rules” for hair have also changed. The categories used to be black, brunette, red, and blonde, but now people sport hair color in every shade of the rainbow. Or, someone might have dyed blonde hair, but intentionally keep dark roots as a contrast to the blonde — meaning, she’s not trying to pretend she’s naturally blonde. Consider someone with blue hair. The whole idea of certain skin tones looking better or worse with blue hair seems odd to me. Who gets to say who looks good in blue hair? If the person with the blue hair likes the look, isn’t that enough?

Anyway, this is for sure on my mind because of my hair plans. Will I like how blonde hair looks on me? Will my skin look different? Will my eyebrows seem unusually dark? At first those seem like normal questions to me, but then they suddenly feel weird. Because among the billions of people on the earth, there is most certainly someone out there that has skin and eyes and eyebrows that match mine, and hair that is naturally the color I will end up tomorrow. And if I saw that person, would I think: geez, that hair color doesn’t look good with her coloring, or, she sure needs to lighten her eyebrows. Well, of course not. None of us would. Having never seen her any other way, we wouldn’t know the difference.

Related, if my hair was its current natural color, it would be almost completely silver — which is very different than the dark brown hair color I grew up with. Does that mean my coloring has changed to match the silver and I don’t know it? Or is my coloring the same, and the whole idea of hair color and skin color relating somehow totally wrong? Same for Ben Blair, he had very red hair when we married, but it has faded to a light brown. He was told not to wear red as a redhead, but I’ve always like him in red. So many questions!

That was long and rambling, and frankly, I don’t even know what my conclusions are. But I’d love to hear what your take on “seasons” is, and what you think of having hair that “looks good with your coloring”. Do you feel like there are certain colors you look best in? Were you ever told you didn’t look good in a certain color? Or maybe you feel very different than me. Have you had good luck following color advice you heard at some point? I’d love to hear!

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By Gabrielle. The sweetest calendar by Shanna Murray.

McKay Smith is a lovely storyteller, so I know you’re going to enjoy this recounting of her birth experience. The honesty with which she writes – even when she’s admitting weakness or impatience with her doctors! – is comforting, especially for those of us who may feel like we can’t give a voice to all those shattering emotions raging inside. Maybe we’re afraid of sounding bratty or maybe we’re afraid of sounding…afraid.

But it’s hard to get through a pregnancy without breaking every so often, don’t you think? And that’s when things are progressing according to our plans! Here’s a tale of twins, one with a potentially life threatening defect, and how their mom truthfully felt throughout her journey.

Please enjoy McKay’s words.

You’ll love this story!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Jessica Kettle Photography.

I always love reading people who sound exactly the same on paper as they do in real life, which is why Alison’s tour today makes me grin so hard! I think I edited six hahas and a few triple exclamation points, but I left all her capitalized words for emphasis. Alison’s life has lots of emphasis! You’ll see!

I couldn’t wait to share her with you, especially now as the holidays are racing toward us. Her festive philosophy, as you’ll soon learn, is super timely. I know it will inspire you to do more with what you have this very minute, and open your arms wide to welcome every celebration in your path. (Even the ones you’d like to ignore!)

Welcome, Alison! And Happy Tuesday, Friends!

Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here.

A: Hello! I’m Alison of The Alison Show and I live in this little 1920s house in Provo with my music-producer husband Eric, my tyrannical and adorable 4-year-old Ginger, and my precious overly coddled 1.5-year-old angel boy Rad.

Pure magic, straight ahead!

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A Random Monday Update

December 15, 2014

Christmas Tree & Bucket

Image and photo by Gabrielle.

I woke up today thinking of 3 things:

1) I have been Oil Pulling for over a year now.

What? That’s crazy! But I still love it. I feel like I’m so much gentler on my mouth than I used to be, yet my teeth are cleaner and healthier than ever, and they feel like they get a daily polish as well. The biggest benefit I’ve seen (and that may or may not be attributed to oil-pulling), is that I haven’t had a head cold or sore throat or cough — or any congestion at all — since I started. And that’s unusual for me. Historically, if I go a few days without enough sleep, I’ll wake up with a sore throat. But over the last year, that hasn’t happened. And it should have, because it was high-stress, not-enough-sleep kind of year.

Is the oil-pulling responsible? Or is it all in my head? Who knows! But I’m sticking with the oil pulling. I had a conversation with a dentist the other day  (not my own dentist), and he mocked oil pulling mercilessly. I tell you, it didn’t even phase me. The oil pulling is not hurting, and it seems to be helping. If it’s the placebo effect, I’ll take it. : )

2) Speaking of my high-stress, not-enough-sleep kind of year, I have a little report on my mental health medication. My prescription ran out the day before Thanksgiving and I was only able to get it renewed and refilled a couple of days ago, so I’ve gone about 3 weeks without Wellbutrin.

I wondered if I should use the unexpected circumstance to go medication free. I did okay over the 3 weeks, but there were a couple of days where a deep desire for my own death started to creep in again, so back on the meds I go. For me, it’s a no brainer — I experience no side effects that I’m aware of, and the benefits are beyond beneficial.

That’s just a little side note for anyone reading who is feeling shame about being on mental health meds. I want you to know that I am not ashamed at all, and you don’t need to be either.

3) Lastly, I’ve talked a few different times over the last six months about doing something different with my hair (beyond trying bangs). And I’ve finally got an appointment on the calendar to go blonde. It’s scheduled for this Friday!

The goal is go white blonde, like Jihan, but, I’ve talked to a dozen hair stylists about it, and they all agree this will not be a one-day process, and that I’ll have to chop off some, or most of my hair to get there. So I really have no idea what I will look like when I leave the stylist’s chair on Friday. I’m guessing my hairs will be somewhere in the yellow-blonde range, and at least several inches shorter, or maybe I’ll have a full on bob. We’ll see.

I’m just so pleased to be taking some action. My hair has been a wreck for months! I feel like I’ve been on pause while I figured out what I wanted to do, and then made time to do it.

I know that is some random stuff to share on a random Monday. Hah! I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of it.

P.S. — More rain this week in the Bay Area — we have a bucket out ready to catch any drips. A friend at Loeffler Randall sent me the cutest rain boots and I’ve been putting them to good use!

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